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Albany Landlords, Renters Invited To Take City Survey During Challenging Period For Both

Housing along Albany's West Street
Dave Lucas
Housing along Albany's West Street

The City of Albany is exploring options to help landlords and tenants who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Albany Community Development Agency is hosting a series of free webinar sessions to provide tenants and landlords with information and resources about rental assistance and grants for property repairs. Danni Smith is the city's Housing Services Advocate.

"I was brought in as part of the city's RISE grant program to help facilitate landlord and tenant education. We were getting a lot of calls from both landlords and tenants who were having a lot of difficulties due to the pandemic. So the webinars came out of some of those calls. And that we were trying to capture some of the most frequently asked questions and sort of share that with people via resource webinars, we have sessions for landlords and sessions for tenants."

Smith says the goal is to measure and quantify how tenants and landlords have been affected by the pandemic. Topics covered in the surveys include landlord-tenant relationships, rental arrears, and evictions.

Smith notes the eviction moratorium offered protection to renters, and the Common Council recently approved "good cause eviction," which prevents a landlord from removing a tenant without justification. But issues still come up.

"We are hearing from some landlords that they are raising rents to make sure that the people who they're going to be accepting for housing can afford those rents. And we also hear from some landlords who are increasing rents to kind of recoup some of the rents that they've lost. We have heard from some people who are now requiring stricter application criteria, so maybe having a different credit threshold or requiring more rental references than they did before. And the end effect of this is that it has become more difficult sometimes for tenants to find housing, especially housing in their price range."

Smith says the surveys and webinars will help both sides find common ground.

Andria Coyle owns four buildings in the city, 10 units total, but she says one "bad tenant" owes $15,000 in back rent.   "I was granted the warrant for eviction, but because she signed a hardship disclosure, that means she cannot be kicked out of her apartment. But then the federal government gave, I think it was $60 billion to cities to fund renters that were behind. The thing with that is landlords are not allowed to apply by themselves, they have to have the tenant apply as well. So if the tenant chooses not to apply, the landlord doesn't get anything. So my tenant is pretty much dictating the future of what happens to my entire rental property. I'm behind about $10,000 on the mortgage."

The state legislature's COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 has been extended through August 31, 2021. It prohibits evictions and puts various tenant protections in place.

11th ward Common Councilor Alfredo Balarin is also a landlord. He urges landlords and tenants eligible for relief funding to cooperate.    "Right now I think there's a lot of anxiety and fear on both sides. You know, I think there's some landlords the fear that tenants won't do. The paperwork that needs to be done to be able to get access to their funds. And then there's some tenants that fear that maybe landlords won't want to do the paperwork that's necessary and won't want to accept the funds that come from the federal government, and just want to push them out. So it's difficult times right now."

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan:   "We have resources that can help in those situations. And as part of this program, we've hired a tenant liaison, a tenant landlord liaison, who works for the city and who is here to help in situations where a landlord either has somebody who's abandoned a property, if they have a problem tenant, we want to be able to help to create a good healthy relationship between landlords and tenants. This is not pitching one against the other. And so we've invested in ensuring that we're doing all that we can to create good tenants as well. And we want our landlords to help us do that, help us understand how we can help create better tenants if they are having and experiencing issues."

Smith says even if there's something the city can't provide, they're usually able to refer someone to an organization like Legal Aid or United Tenants that may be able to offer specialized assistance with the problem that particular landlord or tenant is experiencing.

Smith points out that ACDA is hosting a series of free webinar sessions to provide Tenants and Landlords with information and resources specific to rental assistance and available grants for property repairs.

  • The tenant webinar will provide Albany tenants with an introduction to the various resources available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics covered will include: the NYS Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), other rental and utility assistance providers, COVID-19 eviction protections, City Code Enforcement, resources for finding new housing, and more. There will be an opportunity to ask questions following the presentation. The Tenant session will be held Tuesday, August 17, 2021 at 6pm, Sign up here.
  • The landlord webinar will provide Albany landlords with an introduction to the various resources available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics covered will include: the NYS Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), maintenance and repair grants, property tax installment plans, foreclosure prevention programs, and more. There will be an opportunity to ask questions following the presentation. The Landlord session will be held Monday, August 16, 2021 at 6pm. Sign up here.
  • There are some resources already available to assist landlords and tenants.  The New York State Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) will provide economic relief to help low and moderate-income households at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability by providing rental arrears, temporary rental assistance and utility arrears assistance. Apply for the NYS ERAP here: https://otda.ny.gov/programs/emergency-rental-assistance/
Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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